The Tulsa area's employment outlook for the first quarter of 2012 is tied for fifth best in the nation, according to the latest results of the Manpower Employment Outlook Survey.
According to the quarterly survey, 13 percent of the companies interviewed plan to hire from January through March, while 2 percent expect to reduce staff. Another 78 percent expect to maintain their current work force levels, and 7 percent are uncertain of their hiring plans.
The area's net employment outlook of 11 percent - calculated by taking the percentage of employers anticipating an increase in hiring and subtracting the percentage expecting a decrease - was among the strongest in the nation.
Other metros with an 11 percent first-quarter net employment outlook that also ranked fifth best were Boston; Columbus, Ohio; Madison, Wis.; Nashville, Tenn.; and Worcester, Mass.
The metros with the best first-quarter employment outlook were Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., and Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., each with a 17 percent net employment outlook.
The metros with the weakest outlook were Dayton, Ohio; Fresno, Calif.; and Spokane, Wash., all having a minus 4 percent net employment outlook.
Even though Tulsa's ranking in the Manpower survey is fifth best for the coming quarter compared to third best for the 2011 fourth quarter, the metro hasn't dropped back. It just means other areas are catching up, said Bob Ball, economic research manager for the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
The energy sector is driving Tulsa's growth along with manufacturing related to aerospace and construction, he said.
The Tulsa metro's unemployment rate inched up to 6.6 percent in October, the latest number available. Economists attributed the rising rate, however, to an improving economy as more people re-enter the labor force in hopes of finding work.
Local hiring activity is expected to drip during the first quarter compared to the current fourth quarter, when the net employment outlook was 13 percent, said Kelly Beyer, a branch manager for Manpower in Tulsa. A year ago, the net employment outlook was 12 percent.
Nationwide, of the more than 18,000 employers surveyed, 14 percent expect to add workers in the first quarter, and 9 percent expect a decline in their payrolls. Another 70 percent anticipate making no change to staff levels, and the remaining 7 percent are undecided about their hiring plans.
In demand For the coming quarter, job prospects appear best in the following areas.
Professional and business services
Leisure and hospitality
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